Such is the beauty of two-legged affairs that a team that loses a match can celebrate and one that has won walks off the pitch disappointed.
☠️ FT | | @orlandopirates 0 - 1 @StellenboschFC (AGG. 2 - 2)— Orlando Pirates (@orlandopirates) September 24, 2023
It’s a defeat on the day, but the two sides finish level on aggregate. The Buccaneers book a spot in #MTN8 final through the away-goal rule.
That the overall score was actually 2-2 after Pirates won the opening leg 2-1 out in the Winelands two weeks ago did not matter to The Ghost. And why should it have when the rules are known way beforehand that the team that has scored the most goals away from their home gets to advance in case of the tie ending in stalemate.
And so it is that Pirates remain in line to defend the title they won last year when they ‘host’ Mamelodi Sundowns in the final to be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday October 7.
It makes for a thrilling clash, what with the Buccaneers not only sure to be out to defend the title but also to exact revenge on the Brazilians who beat them in the DStv Premiership this past Wednesday in their own background.
Yet on the strength of their performances against Stellies on Sunday, the reality is that Jose Riveiro’s team will have to improve immensely to get the better of Sundowns who earned their place in the final via an aggregate 3-2 win over Kaizer Chiefs.
Sunday’s defeat was the third in a row for Pirates who have failed to find the opposition net in all those matches, although Zakhele Lepasa will disagree having ‘found’ the net yesterday – albeit the wrong one as he deflected an Iqram rayenrs shot into his own for the game’s only goal..
The Buccaneers dominated the first half but it was Stellies who got the goal that matters to keep the clash on a knife’s edge. And it was that man Rayners once more who found the opposition net, although this time with the aid of a deflection from
A corner kick delivered towards the penalty spot seemed cleared via a powerful header out by Thapelo Xoki but the ball fell onto the unmarked Rayners just on the edge of the penalty box. The striker was clearly expecting this and was composed enough to set himself up for a powerful right-footed shot which deflected off Lepasa into the net..
Before the goal, Pirates had looked the most likely to score and had a few half chances as they played the game in the visitors’ half. Deon Hotto skewed the ball over when he had ample time to could have done better just after the quarter-hour mark.
The Namibian then created a chance on 33 minutes with a brilliantly curled corner kick which Stellies goalkeeper Sage Stephens made a vain attempt at blocking but Thapelo Xoki directed his free header wide of the goal.
Hotto then had another opportunity from a free kick on the edge of the box and looked to have done everything right as he curled the ball over the wall and on target. But Stephens pulled off a fantastic save to push the ball away and over for a corner.
Clearly out to catch Pirates on the break, Stellies then had a great chance on 39 minutes when a long ball from the midfield fell for Rayners who failed to capitalise on the opportunity by allowing the ball to roll away from him with only Chaine to beat.
The second half was a see-saw affair which saw both sides making inroads into the opposition danger area but with neither managing to find the goal.
Stellies were dealt a heavy blow when they were forced to replace Rayners who went down clutching at his hamstring during a tussle with Paseka Mako.
Adre de Jong got a great opportunity to steal the game on 75 minutes but Chaine was alert to the danger of the ball played long into his box and got to it before the substitute.
There were chances for Pirates late on but Stephens did brilliantly to save a Xoki free kick and later on tipped over Lepasa’s attempt.
In the end, Pirates were pleased to still have the chance to defend the title that they won last year.